NorthWest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) is known to empower lives through affordable, quality education. The college’s small class sizes and personalized instruction are designed to prepare you for success in obtaining high quality training, certificates and degrees. To meet the needs of increased enrollment and in-demand careers, NWACC is currently building two facilities – the Integrated Design Lab and the Washington County Center.
The 18,589 square feet Integrated Design Lab (IDL) is located on NWACC’s Bentonville campus and will house construction management programs, as well as communication and fine arts programs. The facility will allow fine arts and construction students to bring their ideas to life by using their cross-training to build their projects. The facility is scheduled to open to students for the 2019 Fall semester.
The construction of the new 38,000-square-foot Washington County Center (WCC) is located in Springdale, just west of the Arvest Ballpark. The state-of-the-art learning center will offer courses in General Education, Nursing, Health Information Management, and Emergency Medical Response and hold offices for NWACC’s High School Relations which oversees the Early College Experience Program. The facility is scheduled to open to students for the 2020 Spring semester.
NWACC offers more than 75 technical certificate and two-year associate degree programs in various subjects, including business management, graphic design, computer programming, criminal justice, and culinary arts, as well as two of the area’s most in-demand careers – nursing and construction management.
Dena Stone was one of the first graduates of the construction management and building sciences program. She works as a construction project manager for the college and is in charge of overseeing the planning, design, and construction of new buildings from beginning to end. Stone says she didn’t plan on a career in construction.
“I grew up on a farm and always enjoyed working outside and taking agriculture classes, but construction wasn’t a field many women thought about at the time, so I focused more on business,” she said.
Stone worked as a bank teller at the Walmart home office and as an assistant to a high school principal before she joined the human resources department at NWACC. She soon worked herself out of a job after streamlining many of the department’s processes. That’s when she got her first taste of construction.
“A position opened up in NWACC’s construction office and I started learning the job and how to work with architects, contractors, and sub-contractors,” she said.
Stone knew she was in the right place. “I absolutely love it! No two days are alike – it’s always something new and at the end of the day, you can see what you achieved.”
When NWACC started its construction management program in 2016, Stone was one of the first to enroll. “I saw an opportunity to grow my knowledge and expertise. I was fortunate to already have a job in the field, but for some of my classmates, the program was life-changing. They were able to go from having just a job to having a career.”
The construction management and building sciences program takes two years to complete with classes two to three nights a week. Just two years after it started, nearly 100 students are enrolled. More than 200 students are also enrolled in apprenticeship courses for skilled careers in electrical work, plumbing, and HVAC.
You can explore careers in construction by visiting NWACC’s mobile construction lab, which visits schools and other locations. The college also hopes to get more women interested in these careers with its Women in Construction event, which helps young women learn more about jobs in construction and skilled trades.
Leo Martin credits NWACC’s nursing program with helping launch his career. He first attended NWACC before transferring to the University of Arkansas to earn a degree in kinesiology. “I thought I wanted to do physical therapy, but as I got into it, I realized there was not a lot of variety in the work I’d be doing. I was attracted to the different specialties in nursing,” he said.
He returned to NWACC and enrolled in the nursing program. The program offers three tracks: a traditional track that takes two years to complete, an accelerated course that lasts 16 months, and an online-based LPN to RN program.
Martin says the knowledge he’s gained has prepared him for a successful career. “Every minute is spent learning bedside nursing. Nurses are the front line of any type of healthcare and you have the opportunity to change lives – a nurse is usually the first face a patient sees and the last face they see when they leave.”
Once he graduates, Martin looks forward to a career at the VA hospital in Fayetteville, “I’ve always wanted to be able to give back to our veterans, and I feel fortunate this program has helped me find my dream job,” he added.